Attack the Block
Executive produced by Edgar Wright—the guy behind Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Spaced, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World—first-time director Joe Cornish's debut is fantastically clever and relentlessly funny. Like all great monster movies, it's got bit of social commentary slyly poking its head out from the shadows; if you can see past the mangy, jet-black fur and phosphorescent fangs of Attack the Block's aliens, you'll find a fair amount to think about. But—again, like all great monster movies—if you'd rather just roll with it, and simply have a better time in a theater than you've had in entirely too long? That works too. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
Oliver (Ewan McGregor) is approaching middle age, has no idea how to maintain a romantic relationship, and is reeling from the recent death of his father, Hal (Christopher Plummer), who came out of the closet only four years before dying of cancer at age 74. Writer/director Mike Mills (Thumbsucker) based the insightful, funny, and moving Beginners on his experiences with his own father, and a personal sense of discovery pervades the film. Mills refrains from drawing any direct cause-and-effect correlations between Oliver's girl troubles and his parents' troubled relationship—there's no blame or judgment, only an honest search for understanding. ALISON HALLETT Laurelhurst Theater.
Bellflower is unique, ambitious, and exciting, but at the end of the day, it doesn't say anything more revelatory than "bros before hos." MARJORIE SKINNER Clinton Street Theater.
Celine Danhier's documentary about "the rich but gritty era" of New York's East Village in the '70s. Featuring interviews with Jim Jarmusch, Thurston Moore, John Waters, Steve Buscemi, and more. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
De Palma! Travolta! DENNIS FRANZ! Laurelhurst Theater.
Bobby Fischer Against the World
See review this issue. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
1947's Brighton Rock could be harmless and crackerjack if not for the immeasurable weight of Richard Attenborough's performance as teenage sociopath, Pinkie Brown, who aims to be a made man. DAVE BOW Living Room Theaters.
Burial Ground: Nights of Terror
This 1981 Italian zombie flick is pretty dopey and totally hilarious, especially the parts with the character of young Michael, a 10-year-old boy who is actually played by a grown-up little person. It eventually becomes apparent why they cast an adult in a child's role (mostly to do with his Oedipal feelings toward his mother). Plus, lots of bloody zombie munchings. Yeah, this movie's pretty incredible. See My, What a Busy Week!, pg. 15. NED LANNAMANN Hollywood Theatre.
I doubt this is much of a shock, but Colombiana sucks. To be fair, it sucks the same way a Jason Statham movie sucks. So if you find yourself cheering when a burly bald man strangles another man with an oily T-shirt, why not a hot chick murdering dirtbags with a toothbrush? JAMIE S. RICH Various Theaters.
What Psycho did for showers? What Jaws did for the ocean? Contagion does that for EVERY SINGLE THING YOU COULD POSSIBLY IMAGINE. Do you talk to people? Do you touch things? Do you go places, like "rooms" or "outside"? Do you eat or breathe? Because Contagion will ruin all of these things. It will turn you into one of those sad, lonely freaks who carries a little thing of Purell with them wherever they go, and whenever you touch or smell anything, or come within 20 feet of anyone, you will see your own corpse: your dull, dark eyes; your pale, rubbery skin; your cold lips, crusty with snotty, dried-up froth. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The Debt opens in 1997, as Israeli journalist Sarah Gold (Romi Aboulafia) debuts a book chronicling the heroic 1966 capture of Nazi war criminal Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen) by three young Mossad agents. Two of them are her parents: Rachel Singer (Helen Mirren) and Stephan Gold (Tom Wilkinson). The third, David Peretz (Ciarán Hinds), has just stepped in front of an oncoming truck. As it quickly becomes apparent, there's a secret lurking behind the incident, for which all three agents have been treated as national heroes. In its longest and best chunk, The Debt jumps back to tell the true story of what happened, as the agents hole up in an East Berlin apartment practicing combat moves and love triangulations, awaiting their cues to strike. (The younger versions of the characters are played by Jessica Chastain as Rachel, Marton Csokas as Stephan, and Sam Worthington as David.) The Debt has plenty of riveting, pulse-quickening scenes, and it's worth watching for its entertainment value alone, but like its bungling protagonists, it stops short of being truly heroic. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
Dial M for Murder 3D
See I'm Staying Home. Cinema 21.
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark has Guillermo del Toro's fingerprints all over it. But those brilliant fingers were in a dozen other pies when he was originally slated to helm Dark, so he handed the directing duties over to first-timer Troy Nixey. And boy, does it have elements right out of The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth: the exploration of a creepy new home, spooky set pieces, a child in a supernatural thrall, neglectful parents. While Dark never hits the highs of a true del Toro picture, it's a pretty decent facsimile. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life
Looking for an observant, informative biopic on songwriter/provocateur Serge Gainsbourg? Keep looking. Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life is the furthest thing from a clear-eyed look at the French chanteur; the only thing it deigns to reveal about its subject is that Gainsbourg's filmmaker is obsessed with him. That filmmaker is French comics artist Joann Sfar, making the leap to directing by adapting his comic to film. It's an audacious, experimental movie that, unlike Todd Haynes' deconstructionist Bob Dylan flick I'm Not There, flounders under its own ambition. NED LANNAMANN Living Room Theaters.
Hannah and Her Sisters
"Look at all these people, trying to stave off the inevitable decay of their bodies." Suzette.
The maladroit love child of Remember the Titans and Eat, Pray, Love, conceived during a drunken and misguided romp behind the bushes at a child's birthday party. Would-be journalist Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelas (Emma Stone) comes home from college wanting to change the world, but instead finds herself writing a cleaning column in the local daily, playing endless rounds of bridge, and hunting for a husband. After hearing one of her friends insist that black servants use separate bathrooms from their white employers, an incensed Skeeter decides to collect and publish the accounts of the help to shove the intolerance of the white richesse right back in their faces. The film wants to be a portrait of racism, bigotry, and child neglect in civil rights-era Mississippi. Instead, it is just boring. KATHERINE LONG Various Theaters.
The directorial debut of Vera Farmiga, Higher Ground is based on the memoir This Dark World: A Story of Faith Found and Lost by Caroline Briggs. Farmiga stars as protagonist Corinne, a bookish girl who shotgun marries her high school boyfriend. The young couple becomes consumed in the hippie Christian community, eating carob brownies at Bible study groups. The prairie-bloused Corinne quietly struggles at turns with the church's institutional patrimony, the loss of her closest friend, marital strain, and doubts of faith. This subject matter is thoughtful and sensitive, and were it not for the exceptional performances Farmiga has teased from herself and the rest of the cast, it would teeter on boring. But she's created some of the warmest and most sincere depictions of the female experience to have flickered across an American screen in some time. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
I Don't Know How She Does It
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
The Last Circus
Fellini meets Zack Snyder in this weird-ass clown movie from Spanish director Álex de la Iglesia. In 1937, a circus clown is conscripted into the Spanish Civil War, where he mows down an entire platoon clad in a baby-doll dress and blonde ringlet wig. Thirty-six years later, Javier (Carlos Areces), his pudgy nebbish son, joins a circus as a sad clown, foil to a violent alpha clown named Sergio (Antonio de la Torre), who beats his acrobat girlfriend (Carolina Bang) and drunkenly rules the big top. The Last Circus is a stylish and baroque glut of violence and sex, filled with strange and memorable moments (clowns with machine guns!), but it lacks a certain emotional anchor—it's far too concerned with melodrama and meandering revenge. But for the love of all things fucked up, you should probably still go see this thing. COURTNEY FERGUSON Hollywood Theatre.
Life Above All
A coming-of-age story about Chanda (Khomotso Manyaka), a preteen girl in a South African slum who's tragically mature beyond her years. Chanda's problems aren't boys or mean girls at school or making the varsity basketball team; they have more to do with the fact that the people around her are dropping like flies from AIDS, a disease so feared and misunderstood in her community, people suspected of even associating with the afflicted are ostracized, sometimes violently, and the ill are basically left outside to die. Although powerfully done, there's no getting around that Life is depressing. It does offer a light at the end of its cyclical tunnel of destructive ignorance, but in the wake of the story preceding it, it does seem a rather long way off. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
The Lion King 3D
It's The Lion King. But in 3D. So... yep. It exists. Various Theaters.
Our Idiot Brother
Paul Rudd can reliably moisten my panties. I will watch any movie he's in. While I love my husband, I... I mean, Paul Rudd! Such a dreamboat. He can't not be charming and loveable. That said, Our Idiot Brother is not the panty-moistening star vehicle it could have been. Even Rudd's dreamy eyes don't twinkle enough to make up for lazy writing. ELINOR JONES Various Theaters.
Pearl Jam 20
Cameron Crowe's Pearl Jam documentary. See next week's Mercury for our review. Bagdad Theater.
Fast paced and crisply edited, the French thriller Point Blank's remarkably boilerplate in a lot of ways—a (pregnant) damsel in distress! An ordinary man forced into extraordinary circumstances! A tough-as-nails-but-well-meaning cop who might be an ally to our troubled hero!—but director Fred Cavayé doesn't waste much time in turning those clichés on their head, or, barring that, at least milking them for all they're worth. This is the increasingly rare kind of thriller that realizes its chief priority should be, y'know, thrills. ERIK HENRIKSEN Living Room Theaters.
1988's Dolph Lundgren action flick, in which the Dolph kills some motherfuckers. Presented in 35mm as the latest in the Clinton's "Flattop Film Series." "A guy with a flat top stars in a flattop film! This is flattop cinema at its finest!!!" Can't argue with that, press release. Clinton Street Theater.
The River Why
An extremely boring film adaptation of a 1983 novel with the same title. It's got the kid who played Matt Saracen on Friday Nights Lights as Gus, a young adult who ditches the pressures of his fishing-obsessed family by... going fishing. (Dude is a shitty escapist.) The movie is set in Oregon, so that was pretty and fun to see, but it sucked otherwise. The plot was like this: FISHING FISHING William Hurt in a bow tie, FISHING, love interest who also FISHES, dead guy, MORE FUCKING FISHING. I drank a lot to try to make this movie more fun and then fell asleep before it was over. ELINOR JONES Hollywood Theatre.
Over the angry, desperate whine of open-throttled Formula One engines, Senna blisters with a jarring intensity. Asif Kapadia's documentary follows the career of determined F1 racer Ayrton Senna—a little-known figure here, given America's general preference for hillbilly-pandering NASCAR, but a national hero in his native Brazil. Senna's career was, to say the least, impressive: After starting off as a speed-obsessed rich kid zipping around goofy little racetracks on goofy little karts, Senna's skill eventually landed him a spot on the McLaren Formula One team, where he'd go on to win three F1 World Championships by the time he was 31. Years later, any look at Senna's career is one that can't help but include highs, lows, and a dark sense of foreboding—but where Kapadia's Senna succeeds is in how immediately visceral it makes these proceedings. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fox Tower 10.
See review this issue. Hollywood Theatre.
What's this? A crappy-looking PG-13 horror flick that wasn't screened for critics? Why, I never.... Various Theaters.
A "heckle-along" screening of Paul Verhoeven's 1995 non-classic. Mission Theater.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
The Tree of Life
With The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick's created a film that embodies the best and worst of his tendencies. I'd tell you what it's about, but it's kind of about everything: Cosmic and daring and intimate and insightful, it straddles, dodders, and occasionally trips along the thin black line between glorious success and well-intentioned failure. It ranges from dourly introspective familial drama to life-and-death struggles between dinosaurs, spanning eons and species and the tiny distances between people. Sometimes it works, beautifully and boldly and with Old Testament-style grandeur; sometimes it feels like a deleted scene from Jurassic Park. ERIK HENRIKSEN Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
It's easy to make comparisons of the Norwegian fake-documentary horror-thriller Trollhunter to other fake-documentary horror-thrillers like The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield. A more apt comparison, though, would be the recent Finnish film Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, in which Santa Claus was revealed to be a menacing ogre. That movie balanced the comedic and creepy elements of familiar children's stories; Trollhunter similarly plunders a well-worn mythology—trolls are even more common in Scandinavian folktales than they are in our own—and the result is an action-packed monster movie that's entirely silly and wholly suspenseful. NED LANNAMANN Laurelhurst Theater.
Maybe it's sadistic or sexual (it's probably both), but there's something about the sight of two grotesquely muscular, tough-as-nails, stronger-than-fuck dudes beating the holy hell out of each other. It's an emotional thing, too. Forget cancer-of-the-week movies and sad, sorry tales that end with someone shooting the dog. Nothing's more likely to make the back of the throat feel fuzzy—and shut up, I'm just fixing my contact lens for a second—than tying a bit o' drama onto blood-spattered, broken-toothed, fist-upon-flesh action. For that, Warrior joins Rocky and Raging Bull (no, not you, Million Dollar Baby, go home) in the Fightin' Movie Hall of Fame, where thrillingly brutal punches are interspersed with dollops of pathos. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.